The Diet on Wednesday passed a bill requiring dog and cat breeders to microchip animals, and owners to voluntarily do the same to their pets, in a bid to reduce the number of strays.
The pet microchipping rules will take effect in three years after the promulgation of the revised animal protection law, which also toughened penalties for people found guilty of abusing animals. A number of serious cases in which people have shared videos of abuse created momentum for the change.
Those found to have injured or killed a pet could be subject to imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to ¥5 million ($46,100), increased from the previous penalty of up to 2 years in prison or a fine of up to ¥2 million.
The new law also bans the sale of dogs and cats until they are at least 56 days old, as experts have pointed out that animals separated from their mother early in their lives tend to bite more and develop other problems.
A similar regulation is already in place in parts of Europe. Before the change, dogs and cats were unable to be sold in Japan until they were at least 49 days old.
Direct sales between breeders and owners of protected species of Japanese dogs, including Shiba and Akita dogs, are not subject to the new rules.
The animal protection law is reviewed every five years. The 56-day-old sales requirement will take effect in two years after promulgation of the revised legislation, while other regulations will come into force within one year.
According to the National Police Agency, the number of reported animal abuse cases totaled 84 last year, a record high since the agency started compiling the data in 2010. The number has been continuously rising since 36 posted in 2013, the agency said, attributing the increase to more people paying attention to the issue and reporting abuse cases to police.
The cases include an arrest of a 68-year-old man in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, in April last year for allegedly keeping two dogs in a filthy vacant house without giving them food or water. Reports said remains of several other dogs were discovered at the house.
In February, a 31-year-old man of Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, was arrested on suspicion of throwing two cats into a waterway, in December and January, shooting a video of the act and posting it on YouTube.